Friday, November 2, 2012

Hello, Lydia?

I can go days, and sometimes as long as a full week, without receiving a phone call. This is not a complaint, merely a statement of fact. Another little fact -- I don’t really like talking on a cell phone. I can’t always hear the caller, or they can’t hear me, and much too often my own voice echoes back to me on a delay. I’m also super paranoid about talking on a cell phone, because it seems people (i.e. my coworkers) always talk ten times louder into a cell than into a landline phone. I like texting and email. Those are nice and quiet and I don’t have to worry about not being able to hear the other person, or that I’m broadcasting my personal business all over the small office where I work.

While quite accustomed to my cell’s tone or vibration signifying an incoming text, when a call comes in, sometimes the sound is so foreign to me that I just stare at the phone. It might take a second or two before I snap out of my stupor and begin to process the information contained in my mental decision-making flow chart:

Am I expecting a call back from someone?
Yes = answer the call

If not expecting a call, is a caller ID displaying and am I at work?

If caller ID = Yes = someone who will not cause my normally low blood pressure to go stratospheric, then I’ll answer the call, unless I’m at work and environmental circumstances are unfavorable.

If caller ID = Yes = someone who has previously elevated my blood pressure or caused me to raise my voice in an unprofessional manner,  then the call goes to voice mail to be dealt with later.

If caller ID = No, then the call goes to voice mail to be dealt with later.

It’s a simple system. It’s why caller ID and voice mail were invented, right?

I get (and make) few enough calls that I subscribe to the lowest volume calling plan offered by my carrier, and still use barely 50% of my 450 monthly minutes. (Text messaging is a totally different story, however.) My history of low call volume means that I may forget to check the phone for missed calls and messages and when I finally realize there there are any, it's usually met with surprise.

During one particularly memorable recent three day stretch, my phone acquired a busy new social life. It was abuzz with calls -- all from unknown numbers. It started on a Sunday morning. The first call was from a Kentucky number, and I missed it because I was in another room and the phone was still on vibrate since the previous Friday at work. The message retrieved later from voicemail was something like "This is muffle muffle from muffle landscape calling for Lydia blabbity blah free estimate." Three hours later, a caller from a middle Tennessee number left a similar message, again for Lydia. After the second call I was curious, but not curious enough to call back.

On Monday, the original callers tried again and I answered. I explained that “there is no Lydia at this number” and the callers apologized and we were done. I felt kind of bad, but it’s not my fault they have the wrong number.

On Tuesday, another call came in from such an unfamiliar exchange I went online afterwards to look it up. It was from a Denver area exchange, which probably just means someone relocated and with the whole number portability thing, didn't change their cell number. It was another call for Lydia, from someone else responding to a query about landscaping services. I explained that “there is no Lydia at this number” but that I had received several calls for her in the past few days. Even though it wasn’t his fault, the caller apologized and we were done.

Lydia seems kind of popular and I feel kind of jealous. At 20 days into my billing cycle, there were 16 calls for 47 call minutes used (out of 450 plan minutes). Of the 16 total calls, six were incoming calls for Lydia. Damn. Pretty sad. Worse, my yard really could use some professional help, so I’ll admit, I considered jumping on Lydia's business with the callers. Then I realized if a landscaper came out to give me a "free estimate" I was likely to end up signing up for some costly service and there are no more corners to cut in my budget and definitely no room for an extravagance like landscaping. Tragically, this is exactly why my yard looks like it does.

The first wrong number was chalked up as a misdial. By the second call for the same person for the same pupose, it felt like a pattern, and I wondered if there had been a home and garden show nearby recently. By the time the call came in from the third number, I had formed a theory. It is doubtful Lydia meant to give a wrong number to so many people. I theorize she did the same thing I did when I went away to college, had a new phone number, and applied for several jobs. I wrote down my new phone number wrong -- and gave it to my Mom and then entered it on three or four job applications. When I hadn’t heard from Mom for a few days, I called her, and that’s when I learned of my mistake. As a contact on the applications, she had received a call from at least one potential employer who couldn’t reach me at what I had thought was my phone number. Unfortunately, neither could Mom, but luckily, I was able to reach the store manager who had called, clear up the phone number business and get the job, thus ensuring I had spending money (and a discounted wardrobe!) for the semester.

Lydia may not be so fortunate. She is probably staring at that yard that she wants landscaped, cursing the local service people who don’t return calls -- which is actually a pet peeve of mine, having been ignored by several trades in my five years of home ownership. I have lamented that any businessperson in town who actually returns calls could easily become a millionaire. Of course, it will help a lot if we would give them the correct digits.

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